Tag Archives: Steve Sando


Steve Sando isn’t “harmonically innovative.” He doesn’t show off his four-octave range, put lyrics to Eric Dolphy lines, or affect Sinatra-mannerisms. What he does is, I think, more difficult and more commendable: he shows his love for songs by offering them, one by one, with affection and understanding . . . putting the spotlight on the song rather than on himself. Hear for yourself:

Steve says, “My intention was always to present some songs that I loved in a manner that isn’t pop and it isn’t jazz but it’s influenced by both. I wasn’t expecting to love singing quite as much but the act of having an idea, trying, failing, and then succeeding is the best.”

Hence, his debut CD, INRODUCING STEVE SANDO, which is out on Bandcamp (digital and tangible versions). What appeals to me most is his approach — as I said before, without ego, but with a kind of relaxed candor. “These are songs that have stories: let me share a story with you,” each performance seems to say. And his low-key, consciously undramatic way is so appealing in these days of singers who feel compelled to wow us with special effects.

Steve is marvelously accompanied — in the true sense of that word — by veteran pianist / arranger Mike Greensill, string bassist Ruth Davies, drummer Mark Lee. You’ll know Mike for his own lovely playing (at times on this CD, reminiscent of Ellis Larkins) but for his partnership, musical and marital, with Wesla Whitfield.

One of the other pleasures of this disc, one I’ve returned to, is the repertoire. No MY FUNNY VALENTINE, or COME FLY WITH ME, or other well-chewed standards. Rather, Steve and Mike have chosen songs that stand on their own, that deliver small constant emotional gifts and surprises: WITH THE WIND AND THE RAIN IN YOUR HAIR / YOU’RE A LUCKY GUY / SAIL AWAY / WHERE ARE YOU? / I WISH I DIDN’T LOVE YOU SO / ONE NEVER KNOWS, DOES ONE? / MY SHINING HOUR / THE THRILL IS GONE / SILENZIOSO SLOW / I’M OLD FASHIONED / THAT’S FOR ME / HONG KONG BLUES / I’LL BE AROUND / SO FAR.

That closing song was new to me, and I’ve now added it to my mental jukebox:

About my title. Some readers may know “Steve Sando” for accomplishments beyond music: he is founder, inventor, and guiding genius of RANCHO GORDO, the place to go for heirloom beans — beans so good that they rebuke the ones in cans and in plastic bags in the supermarket. (My title was his whimsical idea.) I first met Steve more than a decade ago in his Napa, California culinary guise, and then learned of his deep love for music — passionate ballads, Jack Teagarden, Louise Massey, and more — so I am delighted that his immersion in this art has resulted in something so rewarding for us.

He’ll be around, I predict.

May your happiness increase!


What instrument does Steve Sando play?

I don’t know if Steve is a secret hot pianist, but I do know that he’s responsible for the most tasty heirloom beans on the planet — ones the Beloved and I ate last night.  Steve (whose music library starts at five thousand CDs, a man after my own heart) is the Man In Charge of Rancho Gordo, from which delicious beans and grains come.  (His site is www.ranchogordo.com.)  And Steve also adores singers, both well-known and obscure: last night we spoke of Jack Teagarden, Fats Waller, and Alice Faye. 

So these two pieces of paper are in honor of our pal and provider of good things Steve Sando:

That’s Annette Hanshaw!

And Connee Boswell in 1966.  Just remember, jazz fans, it is just as easy to have something delicious to eat as it is to dine on something unsatisfying.  (An unsolicited testimonial from a deeply satisfied consumer.)


I admit it.  This is an extremely indirect jazz post.  Steve Sando is not a hot cornetist.  He doesn’t lead a band dedicated to the music of Jelly Roll Morton.

But I live for spicy food.  And Steve Sando makes the best hot sauce I’ve ever tasted, complex and not just tongue-burning.  And jazz musicians themselves will tell you that the food and the music go together.  And Steve loves jazz.  All right?

His company is called RANCHO GORDO (http:www.ranchogordo.com) — with a naughty logo of a lip-licking bombshell.  And his beans are delicious: rich, deeply-flavored, not just carbs with a nasty after-effect.  And aren’t those dried limas truly pretty?

I wouldn’t be blogging about Steve — this is a jazz blog, not a food blog, even if the latter interests me greatly — except for something written about him in a recent Washington Post story: that he has one wall of his house floor-to-ceiling with jazz CDs.  My kind of fellow.  And I’ve taken a quick look at his new book, HEIRLOOM BEANS (Chronicle), where the recipes are inventive, the writing straightforward.

Swing it, Rancho Gordo!